Review: Best CRM Software for Financial Advisors


When it comes to financial advising, after a certain point, the biggest hurdle to success is staying organized. That's where CRM software shines.

When it comes to financial advising, after a certain point, the biggest hurdle to success is staying organized. That’s where CRM software shines. Photo by Ivan Lian.

Okay, so you’re a financial advisor. Or you’re thinking about becoming one. Either way, you have no intention of being a mediocre financial advisor. Maybe you want to one of those famous financial advisors, like Mellody Hobson or Dave Ramsey. Alternatively, maybe you’re just looking to manage a whole lot of money, like James Wallace and the rest of the advisors on my list of the 5 most successful financial advisors.

Or maybe not famous, but at least comfortably well to do, right? All while helping people in the process — that is why you became a financial advisor, isn’t it?

So you want to take things to the next level. You’re not content. You’re hungry. You’ve read my posts on the best financial advisor value proposition examples and brushed up with my list of financial advisor prospecting ideas.

Which means that 1) leads are rolling in and business is booming or 2) it will be soon.

And you know what that means? Soon you’re going to have so many clients that pen and paper, Excel, Google Calendar, or some combination of the three isn’t going to cut it. You need to get organized.

You need the best CRM software for financial advisors.

What is CRM software?

CRM stands for customer relationship management. CRM software is software that helps you maintain your relationship with your clients and keeps you organized when it comes to acquiring new ones.

Here’s an example. I assume you have some kind of funnel in place that you use for client acquisition — maybe you’re purchasing leads, or cold calling, or whatever. Now, the question is: are you keeping any kind of analytics on those different efforts?

If you’re spending $100 a lead from some company (cough, maybe you know the one I’m talking about), presumably you want to make more than $100 dollars off each one. This means, for instance, if it (generously) takes 5 leads to get 1 client, you’re going to need to have a lifetime value of that client of at least $500 dollars just to break even on lead generation — and that’s not even taking account your labor and all the other costs involved.

So, with proper analytics, you should be able to put this all together in about 5 minutes. If not, well, it’s pretty damn likely that you’re hemorrhaging money somewhere in your acquisition funnel: probably one of your lead generation methods isn’t paying off and, even if it is, consider this next example.

Let’s say you put together these analytics and you find that, through one service, it costs you $500 per actual client gained, and leads through it seem mostly tapped, such that you can’t really get any more through them. On the other hand, maybe you’re also finding that you’ve made at least $5,000 worth off of clients that found you via the web, and your site to date has cost way less than that to build out.

This is a good indication of where you ought to focus your efforts.

This is just one of the features a good CRM will mostly handle for you. A good CRM will also record stuff like call history, calendars, appointment reminders, meeting notes, and so on. Most will even allow you to make notes on birthdays and hobbies and, trust me, if you want a loyal client, remember their birthday. After that, you’re pretty much set for life.

Fight! 3 Examples of the Best CRM Software for Financial Advisors

Representatives from amoCRM and Pipeliner duke it out. Who will end up as the best CRM for financial advisors? Keep reading to find out.

Representatives from amoCRM and Pipeliner duke it out. Who will end up as the best CRM for financial advisors? Keep reading to find out. Photo by Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games.

Alright, so, you now know what CRM software is and why you need it, but now comes the tough part: deciding between all of the available options on the market. You could just try out several different ones, but that would cost money and, more importantly, a lot of time.

It’d be a whole lot of easier if someone just did all the testing and reviewing for you.

You know, someone like me.

So that’s exactly what I did. I browsed the Wealth Management forums, gathered recommendations on the most popular CRM software for financial advisors, and then I compared the most promising three:

If you’re just interested in my final recommendation, scroll to the bottom. Otherwise, keep reading.

3. Pipeliner

Pipeliner, unlike the other two CRMs reviewed here, doesn’t offer a free tier, but you can sign up or a 30 day free trial. If you’re just starting out and have a small client base, when it comes to a financial advisor CRM, you might be better served by one of the later options, like amoCRM or Capsule. Keep reading.

Once you’ve set up your account, you’ll be presented with an installer page. I was surprised. Unlike the other CRM software featured here, this one is an installable application, and not a web app.

pipeliner-crm-install-page

Then you’ll have to install it:

pipeliner-crm-installer

One of the big advantages of this approach (installed software) is that you can use it without an internet connection. If this is an important feature to you, Pipeliner is what you should choose.

When you open up the installed software, here’s what it looks like:

pipeliner-crm-dashboard

While the dashboard is not exactly pleasing visually, it does a great job at conveying information. You can really see what stage everyone is at in the pipeline.

Here’s what it looks like when you want to add someone new into the system:

pipeliner-crm-add-new

Like the other software on this list, you can import your existing contacts:

pipeliner-crm-import-contacts

There’s also a calendar for scheduling:

pipeliner-crm-calendar

And an interesting, although sort of ugly, note-taking feature:

pipeliner-crm-notes

One neat idea I haven’t seen implemented before is a timeline feature. This allows you to pick up on lulls in your productivity in a glance and is, I think, a good way to stay motivated. One bad day isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things.

pipeliner-crm-timeline

Finally, you can generate an entire array of different reports, which will allow you to really dig into your performance and figure out what could be improved.

pipeliner-crm-reports

Altogether, Pipeliner is sort of ugly, but in a practical sort of way. If it’s important to you that you be able to use your CRM software without an internet connection (maybe because you’re on the road a lot), then I recommend choosing it over the applications featured in this article. Sign up here.

2. amoCRM

When you go to the amoCRM homepage to sign up, you’ll be presented with a form like this one. Like Capsule, discussed next, they let you pick out your own subdomain to use — a nice touch. Unlike Pipeline, amoCRM offers a free tier, for up to 5 open leads and 100 contacts.

While I suspect almost everyone will quickly outgrow this tier, it’s nice to only pay for the value you’re getting out of the product. If you have more than 100 open leads, for instance, you can probably afford the 50/month tier. (There are also cheaper tiers between 5 and 100 open leads.)

Here’s what the sign-up form looks like:

amocrm-signup-subdomain

After that, you’ll be transported to the main dashboard.

The view from the amo CRM dashboard.

The view from the amoCRM dashboard.

You’ll notice that the design is a bit nicer than Pipeliner, but not quite as nice as the next CRM, Capsule.

Conveniently, the software comes along with many helpful messages to get started. By following them, you’ll pretty quickly figure out how to manage your current contacts. Here’s what that dialogue looks like.

amocrm-importAfter that, maybe you’ll want to add a new lead. Here’s that view:

Tracking leads with amo CRM.

Tracking leads with amoCRM.

You can also check out how things are going with the pipeline view. This will let you understand where you ought to be focusing your efforts to maximize your return on investment. Plus, this can be motivating.

amocrm-pipelineFinally, amoCRM comes with a built-in calendar feature, called tasks, which you can use to schedule different things. It also features Google integration.

amocrm-tasksAltogether, I think amoCRM is a very solid choice, but I prefer the next CRM for financial advisors, Capsule.

1. Capsule

Capsule is a great CRM: well-designed and easy to use. The software offers a free tier up to 200 contacts, so it’s great when you start growing your financial advising service.

On the sign-up page, they even let you pick out a custom domain:

When you sign up for Capsule CRM, you'll be shown this dialogue for setting up a custom subdomain. Convenient!

When you sign up for Capsule CRM, you’ll be shown this dialogue for setting up a custom subdomain. Convenient!

You’ll receive a confirmation email. Mine was close enough to spontaneous to be imperceptible. I just tabbed to my gmail account and it was there.

Once you log in, you’ll be show the Getting Started menu. This can also be pulled up at any time from the preferences drop-down menu, so don’t worry if you close it.

capsule-crm-getting-started

The Capsule CRM “Getting Started” menu.

You’ll notice that there’s an option to import your old contacts — a very important feature when it comes to a CRM. You don’t want to have to manually type in all your current contact data (say from Outlook) by hand.

The Capsule CRM import contacts page.

The Capsule CRM import contacts page.

After you have all of that out of the way, you can go back to the main screen. The more information that you enter, the more content that’s displayed here, giving you an at-a-glance overview of what you’ve got going on.

capsule-crm-dashboard

Adding new contacts is simple, too:

capsule-crm-example-client

The software doesn’t come equipped out of the box with every field you might want, like recording a client’s birthday or the size of their account, but you can easily extend this with custom fields.

capsule-crm-custom-fieldsCapsule can even handle automatically grabbing information from your social media accounts, like Twitter.

capsule-crm-social-network-integrationThe software also has no problem handling what I discussed in the section “What is CRM software?” Namely, it can figure out how your client acquisition and sales funnel looks, and calculate the probabilities for you. Then, you’ll know where to focus your efforts in order to maximize profits.

capsule-crm-sales-pipeline

All in all, Capsule is a very strong choice: well-designed and it covers all the primary features that you want in a CRM. Plus, it’s hard to complain when you can use it for free. I am convinced that this the best CRM software for financial advisors.

Sign up for an account.

My recommendation

best-crm-software-for-financial-advisors-victory

So, what’s a financial advisor to do? In this author’s opinion, you have two real options:

  • If offline access is important to you, Pipeliner CRM is the best (and only) serious option for financial advisors. Sign up here.
  • On the other hand, if you’re willing to sacrifice online access, Capsule offers more features and a stronger design — all at a lower cost. Sign up here.

Get organized and let me know how it goes.

Book Review: All About Asset Allocation


all-about-asset-allocation-summaryHey gang, time for another book review. The last review in this series was my A Random Walk Down Wall Street review.

Today, I’m reviewing Rick Ferri’s All About Asset Allocation. Rick Ferri is a somewhat well-known blogger (his website is here), and he’s written six investment books, including this one. Rick is a champion of the low-fee, index fund-heavy approach to investing.

All  About Asset Allocation summary

The book is about, as you might expect, how to go about allocating your assets. How much of your investments should be in stock? What percent in bonds? How about real estate?

This is a top-down approach to investing, where one first decides on asset allocation, and then goes out and implements that strategy. This is opposed to the bottom-approach favored by value investors, which consists of buying whatever securities are worth less than their intrinsic value.

Thus, the book is about deciding on where to put your money. There’s at least on famous study indicating that your asset allocation determines most of the variance in your returns so, if you subscribe to a top-down approach, this is an important point worth spending some time on.

As I put it in my extended All About Asset Allocation summary, the advice in the book can be summed up thusly:

  1. Determine a set of non-perfectly correlated asset classes to build a portfolio out of. Securities like stocks, bonds, commodities, real estate, and so on.
  2. Taking into consideration your risk tolerance, decide on an allocation between those assets.
  3. Once that’s done, precommit to rebalancing your portfolio once annually to ensure that you maintain these targets.
  4. Stay the course.

All About Asset Allocation review

So, what did I think about the book? First, let me tell you what I liked, and then I’ll tell you what I didn’t.

Positives

The book is written in a very clear, straightforward manner, such that I have a hard time beliving that anyone will come away from it confused about its main message. This is a strong plus. The author does a great job at demystifying investing and not hiding behind jargon.

I also enjoyed that the book contains a lot of different charts. This helps break up the text, and makes it more readable and understandable. I’m a bit envious, really, because one of the weaknesses of Top Financial Advisor is that I haven’t been including enough graphics. But that’s just like, my opinion, man.

Beyond that, the book held my attention well, and I burned through it in less than a week.

Negatives

The book’s biggest weakness, and depending on how you lean, maybe this isn’t a weakness at all, is that the author is a Boglehead. These are people who have taken the gospel of Vanguard founder John Bogle and created a religion out of it. They preach index funds and low cost investing with a fervor rarely seen outside of the political arena.

Maybe they’re right, and the markets really are so efficient, and market-wide returns so stable, that value investing and other strategies are a waste of time. But the ideology is still annoying, just like, even if you’re a Democrat, you can still notice that know-it-all Democrats and pundits on MSNBC are more annoying than not.

The other negatives, as far as I’m concerned, is that I came away with less than a very strong understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of asset allocation. A lot of the ideas about the subject rely on the relationship between risk and reward, which has a weak at best relationship to the empirical evidence. I understand why diversification works but, beyond that, I’m not very confident that constructing a portfolio has any guiding star.

Should you buy this book?

With the negatives out of the way, on the whole, I thought it was pretty good. If you’re interested in learning more about asset allocation, it’s hard to go wrong with the book.

Consider buying a copy.

Book Review: A Random Walk Down Wall Street


a-random-walk-down-wall-street-summaryAh, money. It doesn’t taste good. It doesn’t smell good. It can’t keep you warm at night, and it won’t love you back.

But you can trade it for something that does.

And the most remarkable thing that you can buy with money? More money. Like some sort of broken genie that allows you to wish for more wishes.

Guy at counter: Yeah, uh, I’d like to buy three dollars.
Cashier: Okay, sir, that’ll be two dollars.

Except there’s a catch, and that’s time – you can put in money and get more money out, but you’ll have to wait a while. Like growing a chia pet, instead of water, just add time.

This is my A Random Walk Down Wall Street review.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street is about investing: how to find the best risk-reward tradeoff to turn your money into more money. How to buy three dollars with two.

What the book is about

(See also my A Random Walk Down Wall Street summary.)

The book is about random walk theory. The author defines a random walk this way: “A random walk is one in which future steps or directions cannot be predicted on the basis of past history.”

Here’s another way to think about it: imagine that you flip a coin 10,000 times. Starting from zero, with each heads, you add 1. For tails, subtract 1.

Then, plot this number against the number of flips.

Except this is 2014 and I definitely do not have the wherewithal to flip a coin 10,000 times, so I wrote a program to simulate it, and here’s what it produced:

stock-market-random-walk-2

Remind you of anything?

It looks like a stock market chart, and it sure looks like there is a trend there – you should get in on this when it starts to go up, because there is some momentum. When it goes up, it keeps going up.

Or, at least, that’s the lie your mind constructs. At any point, the next point is decided at random, by a coin flip. There’s no tradeable information in this chart at any time, by construction.

The stock market, the author argues, works in the same way. Whenever you buy an individual stock, you’re betting that the coin will land on heads.

The implication, then, is that an investor ought to buy index funds, because they allow to an investor to gain broad diversification for very cheap. (An index fund is like buying a small slice of each stock.) This diversification increases returns and decreases risk – a point which I plan on addressing in the future, because it’s sorta neat.

In theory, one could gain that diversification by constructing a portfolio from scratch – out of individual stocks, bonds, etc but, in practice, you’ll end up paying a huge premium in fees. This premium compounds over time (less money is initially invested) and can add up to staggering amounts in the long run.

Like I calculated before, a 1% increase in portfolio returns (by avoiding unnecessary costs) could be worth a quarter or a million dollars or more.

The book also has a history of speculation, discusses the correlation between risk and reward, the benefits of diversification, and how you ought to invest at different ages and under varying circumstances. Plus some example portfolios.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street Review

Price is what you pay; value is what you get.

—Warren Buffet

First, I’ll tell you what I didn’t like. Then, I’ll tell you what I did.

Negatives

So, the most annoying bit of the book is the lack of technical details. I’ve seen some reviews that have described the book as either 1) too technical or 2) having enough technical meat to satisfy engineers.

Nope. Graphs were seen but, in general, little technical explanation beyond the standard economic just-so stories. (If anyone has ever told you that raising minimum wage is bad “because supply and demand,” you’ve encountered an economic just-so story. In reality, economists are split on the issue.)

Further, the book uses what is the most annoying rhetorical trick of all time. It goes like this. The author has a theory. They say something like, “There is a moon-sized pile of evidence that supports my theory.”

And then they cite none of it.

Here is a real example: Billionaire Seth Klarman has written a paper, in which he argues that markets are like so inefficient, duh, and that “armchair academics … cling to their theories even in the face of strong evidence that they are wrong. ”

Annnnnd, the paper continues and no strong evidence is seen. WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE, KLARMAN? SHOW ME THIS STRONG EVIDENCE.

To prove that the moon exists, just point.

This is probably not a big deal to most readers but, as disgruntled blogger planning on digging deeper into the available literature, it was pretty fucking annoying.

Beyond this, I would describe the prose as good for an economist but nothing that impressive. An unmotivated reader may have trouble getting through it.

The humor is also pretty weak.

Positives

Okay, with that unpleasantness out of the way, on the whole, I thought the book was very impressive. Indeed, I was most taken with the just how reasonable the author’s opinions and statements were.

I’d expected an ideological barrage about market efficiency, but instead I found a very measured message – along the lines of, “Markets are weakly efficient, such that it’s unlikely that an individual investor can beat the market. But I understand the urge, and if you want to pick individual stocks, here are some guidelines.”

The book doesn’t even argue for the strong or semi-strong versions of the efficient markets hypothesis (EMH), instead conceding that it’s not a perfect random walk, and that there is some momentum – just not enough that someone can trade on it and still beat the market after taking into account fees, and taxes, and all the things that make people say, “Life forever? I don’t want to live forever.”

All the weak EMH requires is that “market participants not be able to systematically profit from market ‘inefficiencies’.” This doesn’t seem absurd to me, but I’m not yet convinced of. There certainly seems to be at least one person who’s returns are not explained by chance. (Spoilers: it’s Warren Buffet.)

And it seems a little galling that aggregating the bets of irrational market participants (ala behavioral finance) should result in rational prices, and don’t give me that law of large numbers “explanation.”

But I’m planning on surveying a lot more related evidence, so I haven’t come to any strong opinions either way yet.

Beyond that, the book is an absurd value (as are a lot of resources when it comes to money.) You can buy a copy for like 11 bucks off of Amazon and, by using the advice contained therein, realize probably an extra 1% in annual returns, which adds up to tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime.

So it’s sorta like trading 11 dollars for 250,000 dollars in the future.

What I’m saying is: this book on investing is a good investment. You should buy a copy.